What is a Herniated or Bulging Disc?
In between the vertebrae of the spinal column, from the second cervical bone (C2) and the way to the lowest vertebral segment in the lumbar spine L5, there are intervertebral discs. The discs allow for movement of the spine, it serves as a shock system for the spine and most importantly provides a space for the spinal nerve root to live by separating the vertebrae above from vertebrae below.
There is a “pump action” at every disc level of the spine. This pumping mechanism creates a suction to pull food and nutrition into the disc (proteoglycans) and squeezes the disc in order to push the waste out of the disc. This pump is analogous to you eating and drinking for nutrition and hydration and then having a bowel movement or urinating to get rid of the waste.
Now imagine if you didn’t eat or drink or had not gone to the bathroom for 4 weeks. You would die. That is exactly what happens to the discover time from blunt trauma or slowly from poor mechanics and excessive wear and tear. Before the disc dies it dehydrates (disc desiccation). When the disc dehydrates it breaks down over time. The hard material at the inside of the disc (nucleus pulposus) ruptures through the small cracks and causes a bulge in the exterior fibers and then ruptures out of the cracks creating a disc herniations. Irritation and compression of the nerves can cause mild to severe pain, tingling, numbness and weakness.